The Surge Season: responding to childhood’s deadliest diseases
Pneumonia and diarrhoea are the top two infection-related killers of children under 5 years of age. Together they caused almost a quarter of the 6,3 million deaths in children under five in 2013.
As the primary paediatric tertiary hospital in the Western Cape, the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital treats the most severe cases of these illnesses throughout the year. However, between February and July each year, there is a significant surge in the numbers of critically ill children presenting or referred with acute respiratory infections and diarrhoeal disease to the Hospital, with 20 – 30% more children arriving at the Hospital doors requiring care.
During this time, the number of children needing admission to the hospital exceeds the Hospital’s standard high care and short-stay ward bed capacity, while also increasing demand for beds in the paediatric Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Increases in the number of available beds and – importantly – associated nursing and medical personnel at the hospital during this ‘surge season’ are critical.
• more children would die or require intensive care for conditions that should have been treatable at a lower level of care.
• wards would become overcrowded and infection-control measures weakened, resulting in increased hospital-acquired infections amongst patients.
• unacceptable patient: staff ratios and the pressures on overwhelmed staff would introduce risks of sub-standard patient care and staff burnout.
• pressure on paediatric ICU beds would prevent important elective surgeries, further
exacerbating long waiting lists and increasing risk of future emergencies.
This annual initiative to temporarily increase beds and staffing in key areas of the Red Cross Children’s Hospital ensures that children attending the Hospital are provided with safe, good quality care during a period of increased demand on its already stretched services.
The Children’s Hospital Trust has committed to raising R3.6 million to support this programme